About a month ago, a friend of mine asked me to make some costumes for a high school musical she's directing. Specifically, she wanted seven tango-style skirts. I rarely work from patterns, but I am generally good at picturing how I want things to turn out, so I agreed to give it a shot, even though I've never made anything like that in my life. Little did I know that I would end up knee-deep in ruffles!
Basically, I wanted to make a wrap-style skirt that has a high slit up one leg, and then I attach layers of ruffles to the skirt. In my head, this all sounded very simple and straightforward. So off to the fabric store we went, where we picked out a bunch of glittery satin-y fabric in four different colors, as well as a drapey black jersey for the skirt bases. I think in total, I ended up taking home about 20 yards of fabric, easily the most I've ever bought in one go, for one project!
My original plan was to cut long, 7" wide, single strips for each row, and then to gather those strips. But after spreading out 4 and 5-yard swaths of fabric across my floor, I realized that not only would it be exceedingly difficult to cut a 4-yard long straight line, it would also be a tremendous pain to pull & gather that much fabric. Instead, I cut strips across the width of the fabric, which was just shy of 60 inches. I probably should have seamed the pieces together, but in order to save time, I opted to slightly overlap them when I sewed them on. I think the overlaps are barely noticeable.
The other thing I failed to think through was just how long it would take me to make all these ruffles. I did the math at one point, and I think it came out to around 100 yards worth of fabric strips that needed to be gathered! Can you believe I thought I'd be able to do this by sewing basting stitches and then pulling and gathering hand? That insane delusion lasted long enough for me to make one very pathetic-looking ruffle before I started searching for other ideas.
Lucky for me, I have lots of very clever sewing friends, one of whom suggested a ruffle foot, and another of whom was extremely kind and generous enough to loan her ruffler to me. Can I just say, that ruffler saved my freaking life?!
Here's a pic of the ruffler foot. It looks like a totally insane and intimidating contraption. There are a number of moving parts, as well as various knobs and dials that need to be adjusted, so there is a bit of a learning curve to overcome. But once you've got it set up properly, it makes the most beautiful, evenly spaced gathers! I loved it so much that despite being rather pricey, I went out and bought one for myself! One word of warning though, because it does move and shake so much, I noticed that after a while, some of the knobs tended to come loose, particularly the big one that holds the foot onto the shank of my machine. So if you're going to be using this for big projects, make sure you frequently give everything a quick twist to tighten.
Once I had all the ruffles done, it was a simple matter of attaching them to the skirt bases, turning down the top to make a simple waistband, and then adding velcro closures. Although when I say simple matter, I should mention that it still involved hours of careful pinning, haha. And there was also the not-small issue of having to finish the edges of the satin, which unravels like crazy.
It's very difficult to get a sense of how these really look when they're just laid out on the floor, so here is a picture of the back one skirt pinned around a pillow. Basically, the ruffles start just below the buttocks, and the slit goes almost all the way up the thigh. The hemline is tapered a bit, so they are longer on one side. My understanding is that the girls are going to be wearing these with black leotards, black tights and maybe black booty shorts too. I'm hoping to be able to get a picture of them in action at some point.